Photo

Allison Russell of the Birds of Chicago

Alli was first introduced to the banjo by Kermit the Frog singing the Rainbow Connection and playing the banjo in the original Muppet Movie. Jim Henson was a genius and a great supporter of music and musicians as well as children. She was enchanted by its rhythmic, syncopated sound. When she moved to Vancouver from Montreal at the turn of the last century/millennium...she found herself in a thriving folk scene and was reintroduced to the banjo by Trish Klein of the Be Good Tanyas. Alli was teaching herself to play when she first met Trish and was enchanted all over again. Trish and Alli founded a band called Po'Girl in 2003...Alli was teaching herself to play clarinet at the time and was quite intimidated to try stringed instruments but she was writing so many songs...she got tired of having to wait for an accompanist to help her flesh them out chordally. So she decided to try and learn a few chords herself and started on guitar. Alli kept gravitating towards the banjo and finally around 2006 really started getting going teaching herself to play. Her other Po'Girl bandmate...also a brilliant solo artist, Awna Teixeira, is a beautiful banjoist and was always ready to help out. Awna taught Alli how to play clawhammer. She uses the banjo as a writing tool for texture, colour, and rhythm within Birds of Chicago song arrangements. She loves to write on the banjo as well as accompanying herself with the banjo and feels the most natural to her when singing. Alli's biggest banjoist influences are Rhiannon Giddens and Abigail Washburn and she absolutely loves Béla Fleck's movie tracing the African roots of the banjo called "Throw Down Your Heart." She says she will be learning and loving the banjo for the rest of her life. Since her first Deering Goodtime banjo got stolen in Tampa after Cayamo 2016...she now plays an Americana Deering Goodtime 5 string banjo that she converted to Aquila Nylgut strings basically trying to get as close as she can to an ngoni-ish or fretless minstrel banjo for a deeper, richer sound as she can. Eventually she says she is going to have to get herself a fretless banjo...